Ushio to Tora – 30

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With Mayuko doomed to live the rest of her life replacing Ushio’s mom, Asako in the hospital still growing her skin back, and a lot of people either dead, turned to stone, or unable to remember Ushio, this entire second season has been one big fat DOWNER.

There seems to be no end to Ushio’s torment, as one thing after another crops up to make his life that much more dark and tragic. Just take Nagare, who “frees” Ushio and Tora from a JASDF transport taking them who knows where.

As was teased previously (by his evil grin), Nagare is now on Hakumen’s side. There’s no explanation why, nor why he retreats as suddenly as he appeared when a HAMMR helicopter approaches (he sliced an armored humvee in half; he can’t take out a chopper?)

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So yeah, there’s been a lot of piling on this season, and each episode has dug deep into the vast repository of Ushio to Tora characters from the first season, dusting them off and putting them back on the game board, like the two HAMMR scientists who didn’t die.

All the negativity of compounded ordeals early on made it hard to enjoy this episode, but the show does,to its credit, throw us a few bones of both hope and levity, which are much appreciated—though Asako getting out of bed and wandering around town with her skin still healing, looking like a damn mummy, is definitely not one of those bones. For the love of God, Asako, go back to the hospital!

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Rather, Ushio’s first bone is the Rock Eater armor HAMMR procured from the Kouhamei Sect before shit went down. They believe it will help them in the latest trial he must face: stopping the JASDF, all the brass of which have been fooled by a false Jei Mei, to launch missiles at the stone pillar at the bottom of the sea where Hakumen is (barely) being held.

It’s pretty obvious by how she speaks and looks that this Jei Mei is not Ushio’s mother, but a Hakumen fake, and it’s just as clear destroying the stone pillar will have the opposite effect of destroying Hakumen’s power.

You know you’re in a plot-heavy show when a fleet of submarines makes an appearance in your supernatural action fantasy shounen rom-com-a-drama! So much stuff going on.

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After Nagare’s tease and HAMMR, Ushio decides to stop by at home to…clean his room for some reason. Naturally, he runs into an ambush by more agents of Hakumen determined to crush the stone Azafuse before they revive and join the fight.

In the process, Ushio’s house is fucking destroyed (I can’t believe that hasn’t happened like five times already, considering all his dangerous adversaries!), and even when he dons his arguably badass Rock Eater armor, he and Tora end up in a tight spot.

So it falls to the shattered bits of petrified Azafuse to glom onto Tora like armor which, while lamer-looking than Ushio’s, enables Tora to take out the baddies with ease.

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After that, all that’s left is for Ushio to collect a couple of mementos from previous episodes and go down to the cellar to re-enact the scene where he first met Tora, which was….weird. I guess it speaks to how on-the-same-wavelength these two are—and how desperate for a moment of fun and levity among all the destruction and despair—that they’d do such a goofy thing.

However, after seeing Asako wander the streets in her bandages, I was really hoping she’d end up at Ushio’s place, even if, realistically, she’s still probably too frail to make it there. But she didn’t, which sucks, because now Ushio is off to the Okinawan Sea to stop those JASDF subs from doing something stupid.

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Ushio to Tora – 03

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In its third episode, the Demon of the Week is something that feels like a common trope in these kinds of shows—the evil painting—but Ushio included enough original twists, details, and character to make it its own, and an entertaining romp to boot. I especially enjoyed Ushio’s dad’s reaction to the fact his son let Tora out and now bears the Demon Spear. Even better: it’s Ushio’s passion for art that gets him into this week’s adventure.

That evil painting happens to be Ushio’s favorite by his favorite painter, Master Hanyuu, his last before he died. Ushio learns that Hanyuu’s daughter Reiko attends his school, but he’s blocked from approaching her by Masaki Kenichi, a bad-tempered beast of a third-year whom everyone in the school fears.

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Later, we get a nice Ushio and Asako moment: when she realizes Ushio’s only interest in Reiko is as a model for his painting, she’s willing to help him out. Even if the crazy demon shit she’s gone through feels like dreams, Ayako knows Ushio is a capable lad, and perhaps he can succeed where she failed in making Reiko a little happier.

In a pleasant surprise, after a short and evenly-matched fight, Kenichi and Ushio bro out, dropping their aggressive postures for the sake of a girl they both care about.

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Ken and Reiko were childhood friends, and he remembers her answering the door in a sheet as her demonic-looking dad feverishly painted that last portrait. Ever since he died, any guy who gets too close to Reiko meets with an unfortunate “accident”, isolating her at a crucial time in her life.

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In one of the first depictions of P.E. consisting of line dancing I can recall, Ushio insists Reiko give him some pointers. As he tells Asako, he’s not going to let sinister rumors keep him from painting his muse. Her demon dad shows up on queue and tries to blow Ushio away via tornado, but Tora happens to be around, and isn’t going to let a lowly demon steal his food. One might think being regarded as food is demeaning, but here it’s a gesture of regard.

Whether he’d admit it or not, Tora’s views on humans have been changing rapidly…and he’s had a lot more fun than he ever did in that musty basement.

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Unaware of how used to this kinda stuff Ushio is (and unable to see Tora), Reiko rushes home and tries to kill herself—for the rumored fifth time—so that her father will be appeased and no one else will get hurt (naturally, she blames herself for the casualties her dad has caused).

But Ushio isn’t going to let her die, and Ken, who had froze in fear earlier, is inspired by Ushio’s courage. They save Reiko, only for her dad to snatch her and start pulling her into the painting, something that is always creepy and nightmarish no matter how many iterations of it I witness.

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It’s—you guessed it—up to Tora to reluctantly pull a defiant Ushio out of the painting, with Ken and Reiko in tow. That frees Ushio up to spear Demon Dad, but Reiko jumps in the way at the last possible second. Fortunately, the spear only kills monsters and goes right through humans.

For that matter, the spear kills the demon, but not before purifying Master Hanyuu’s soul, which appears before them before fading away, with parting words for Reiko to “find happiness.” In his final moments before oblivion, he was able to find it in the knowledge he was free of his demonic shell and his daughter free of its torment; perhaps with her friends Ushio, Ken, and Asako, Reiko can find happiness too.

Then Ushio and Tora scamper off before they have to explain what the hell just happened. All in a day’s work!

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Ushio to Tora – 02

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In addition to destroying his HDTV because he thinks the samurai on the screen is real and being a pain in the ass at school, Tora is also proving a handful (or rather shoulderful) due to his persistent intent to eat Ushio when the time is right, despite the fact Ushio has the Demon Spear.

At each others’ throats they may be, but they also both show each other admirable sides to each other when it counts, inspiring a formidable alliance that allows Ushio to protect his friends and Tora to keep the guy HE eventually wants to eat alive.

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UtT proves last week was no fluke as this week is also a playful, breathless and solidly-crafted twenty minutes of bawdy humor, sudden, intense peril, bold, stylish action, and above-average character work all around. When a stone samurai awakens (probably due to Tora’s proximity) and takes Asuko, Mayuko, and three other girls hostage and starts to petrify them, Ushio eventually feels something is amiss when the spear starts to reverberate.

But I like how Tora doesn’t simply help him out from the start, and instead, tempers flare and they end up fighting each other, wasting valuable time. Tora is still testing the limits of his insolence in the face of the Demon Spear-armed Ushio, and he reaches it, finally offering info on the “Rock Eater” in exchange for Ushio removing the spear from his tender paw.

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It’s also good to see the situation inside the old school building, where the Stone Samurai has set up a barrier that makes the hostages invisible to authorities, before he sticks them with stone tentacles. Asako, to her credit, won’t let herself lose to the bastard, thinking of a time Ushio cheered her on when she was feeling down. There’s a lot that’s familiar about this situation and these themes, but it’s all very well-executed.

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Ushio manages to storm into the old building and challenges the samurai, but finds himself outmatched, and once he loses his grip on the spear, he himself starts to petrify. Tora enters the building unwilling to lift a finger to help Tora, but Tora’s selfless dedication to the hostages (and his begging Tora to save them and leave him there) move Tora.

The final straw is when Ushio, very close to defeat, apologizes because Tora won’t be the one to eat him…no matter how little he cares about humans, he cares enough about Ushio to want to eat him, and won’t let anyone else.

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Suddenly filled with a desire to rescue his future dinner, Tora saves the hostages, then holds the barrier open long enough for Ushio to figure out he can move the spear without touching it with his mind (a pretty good skill to have). He manages to get some good shots in against the samurai, who morphs into a two-headed giant centipede.

Tora tells him how to defeat the changed foe (spit on the spear and stab the left eyes), and it’s bye-bye shapeshifting demon. All that’s left is to break the girls out of their stone shells (they end up being naked underneath, but the show admirably doesn’t linger on their bodies, nor does Ushio stick around.)

Rather, he simply goes home with Tora, the two now grudging companions in battle, if not yet friends. And just as Ushio learned how to use his Demon Spear better, Tora finally comprehends the concept of television, as he sees himself and Ushio all over the local news.

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